by Mari Yamaguchi | The Associated Press
TOKYO — Restaurants and bars in Tokyo and a dozen other regions of Japan will close early Friday, due to Omicron’s version of the country widening COVID-19 restrictions, causing cases in metropolitan areas to hit new highs. went.
The restraint, which is a pre-state of emergency, is the first since September and is scheduled to last until February 13. With three other prefectures – Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi – under similar measures since early January, state restraints now cover 16 regions, or a third of the country.
While many Japanese adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some have received a booster shot, which has been an important protection against the highly contagious Omron version of the coronavirus.
The health ministry on Friday approved the Pfizer vaccination for children aged 5-11 years who are vulnerable to the infection.
During the pandemic, Japan has opposed the use of lockdowns to limit the spread of the virus and focused on the need to close eateries and serve alcohol early, and urge the public to wear masks and practice social distancing. As requested by the Government. Minimize damage to the economy.
Under the latest measures, most eateries are told to close by 8 or 9 pm, while large events may allow full capacity if they have an anti-virus plan in place. In Tokyo, certified eateries that stop serving alcohol can stay open until 9 p.m., while those that serve alcohol must close an hour earlier.
Restaurants that close at 9 p.m. and do not serve alcohol receive 30,000 yen ($263) per day in government compensation, while those that close at 8 p.m. receive 25,000 yen ($220) per day.
Critics say the measures, which almost exclusively target bars and restaurants, make little sense and are unfair.
Mitsuru Saga, the manager of a Japanese-style “Izakaya” restaurant in downtown Tokyo, said he decided to stop serving and stop serving alcohol at 8 p.m. despite receiving little compensation from the government.
“We can’t do business without serving alcohol,” Saga said in an interview with Nippon Television. “It seems that only eateries are targeted for moderation.”
Some experts question the effectiveness of simply banning eateries, noting that infections show no signs of slowing in three prefectures that are already under measures for nearly two weeks.
After more than two years of repeated requests for restraint and social distancing, the Japanese are less cooperating with such measures. People have started commuting by packed trains and have started shopping at crowded shops.
The main train station in Tokyo’s Shinagawa was packed with commuters heading to work on Friday morning.
Japan briefly eased border controls in November, but quickly reversed restrictions on most foreign entrants when the Omicron version began to spread to other countries. Japan says it will stick to a strict border policy until the end of February as the country tries to bolster medical systems and treatment.
The strict border controls have triggered criticism from foreign students and scholars who say the measures are not scientific.
A group of scholars and Japan-American experts recently launched a petition led by the head of the Japan Society, Joshua Walker, calling on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his government to reintroduce foreign scholars and students into the country as part of careful preventive measures. Permission to enter was called for.
In a letter to Kishida, signed by hundreds of academics and experts in Japan-US studies, urging his government to ease border controls to allow teachers, students and scholars to enter Japan and pursue their academic activity was done. Many of them have been forced to drop out of Japan and focus on other countries, including South Korea.
“They become the bridge between Japan and other societies. They are the policy makers, business leaders and educators of the future. They are the foundation of the US-Japan alliance and other international relations that support Japan’s core national interests,” the letter “The closure is harming Japan’s national interests and international relations.”
Japan recently announced that it would allow 87 students on Japanese government scholarships to enter the country, but petitioners say there are many others on foreign government-sponsored scholarships who still cannot enter.
Tokyo reported 8,638 new cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday, surpassing the previous record of 7,377 set a day earlier.
At a meeting of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Task Force, experts sounded the alarm over a sharp-down in Omicron’s leadership.
Norio Ohmagari, director of the National Center for Global Health’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an adviser to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Panel, said Tokyo’s daily new cases could exceed 18,000 within a week if the current pace of growth continues.
Although only a few of the growing number of infected people are hospitalized and occupy less than a third of the available hospital beds in the Japanese capital, experts say cases will accelerate once the infection spread to the elderly. An increase from this can quickly overwhelm medical systems. Population that is more likely to become seriously ill.
Rising infections have paralyzed hospitals, schools and other areas in some areas.
The ministry has reduced the required self-isolation period from 14 days to 10 for those who come in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, and seven for essential workers. days if they test negative.
While about 80% of Japanese have received their first two vaccine doses, the rollout of booster shots has been slow and has so far only reached 1.4% of the population.